With Simone Biles withdrawing from the all-around competition in Tokyo to focus on her mental health, only one thing is clear – the women’s podium will be wildly unpredictable.
The top six gymnasts from qualifications who we’ll see in the final all finished within a point of one another, with Rebeca Andrade of Brazil leading the pack, followed by Sunisa Lee of the United States, Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova of Russia, Nina Derwael of Belgium, and Tang Xijing of China.
This group doesn’t even include France’s Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos, who has massive room for improvement on every event, Jade Carey of the United States, who could fight for a podium shot with a more stable beam, Lu Yufei of China, who is capable of upgrading her vault to a tsuk double full on top of putting together better landings on floor, or Murakami Mai of Japan, who barely qualified into the final after falling and otherwise missing key skills in prelims.
Ten gymnasts with legitimate podium chances makes for one of the deepest women’s all-around finals in more than a decade, and possibly even the most depth at the Olympic Games under the open-ended code of points.
It’s easy to say that the top three qualifiers – Andrade, Lee, and Melnikova – are the obvious choices for the podium, as all posted above a 57 with more than five tenths ahead of the rest of the field. Urazova is also included in that group, though she would have to put together the same perfect performance today that she did on Sunday to challenge, and even then, it will be nearly impossible if the top three all hit, with her situation similar to the one Sun Wei faced in the men’s competition last night.
But unlike the men’s competition, where the top guys could have afforded a fall over the next-best athletes and still earned medals, the women’s final will be too tight, with a fall or major mistake going to be the difference between gold and landing off the podium. It’ll be similar to the kind of competition we saw at world championships in 2017, where Murakami led the all-around but then fell in the final to finish fourth, while sixth-place qualifier Morgan Hurd stepped up to upset for gold.
That’s the kind of competition I’m expecting today, where we’re betting on one thing, but see something else entirely. I do think Andrade, who brought in her Cheng as her main vault and outscored both Biles and Carey on it in qualifications, looks incredible and is peaking at exactly the right time, and I expect brilliance from her today as well.
Lee and Melnikova are coming in a little tired after a hard-fought team final the other night, so it will be interesting to see how that affects them here today, and the same goes for Urazova. Lee has been on fire in Tokyo so far, especially with her heroic anchor performance on floor to secure silver for Team USA on Tuesday after not tumbling for two days, while both Melnikova and Urazova counted falls in the team final, though hopefully that means they’v gotten everything out of their system and will be just fine today.
Of those behind the top group, Tang and De Jesus Dos Santos have the potential to add the most and get closest to the top group. With Tang, that potential is mostly on beam, where I thought her prelims routine was pretty undervalued. But I also think that if she does medal, it will a surprise, just as it was when she got an upset silver at world championships two years ago. De Jesus Dos Santos, meanwhile, can add several tenths across bars, beam, and floor to surpass a 56, but both will need both perfection from herself and mistakes from others to make it happen,
I think while Derwael was nearly maxed out in terms of her all-around capabilities here, she could add a couple tenths on vault with a better landing, and a couple more tenths across the rest of her events, but breaking a 57 will be difficult for her, so her only podium chances will come if she’s as perfect as she’s capable of being while others ahead of her fall.
I see Carey, Lu, and Murakami as having more outside shots at medaling, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I just think they have a bit more to prove, though again, Murakami does have a lot to add back, so even if it won’t be enough for a medal, I hope she can at least get a top eight finish here.
Others competing in the final today include Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova of Great Britain, Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary, Carolann Heduit of France, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui of Germany, Alice D’Amato and Martina Maggio of Italy, Roxana Popa of Spain, Brooklyn Moors of Canada, Jutta Verkest of Belgium, Lee Yun-seo of South Korea, Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland, and Lieke Wevers of the Netherlands.
Though I don’t consider either of the Gadirova twins real medal threats, the pair is coming off of an historic bronze team medal, and I’m hoping that fuels them to hit fantastic performances here. I’m excited to watch them rotate together, and am glad they’ll be there to support each other through yet another major moment of their careers.
I’m also thrilled to see Bui here, qualifying for her first Olympic all-around final at 32 years old.
Unfortunately, Ellie Black of Canada was supposed to join Moors in the final, but after dealing with an ankle injury flare-up in training yesterday, she has opted to withdraw and focus on the beam final, opening up a spot for Wevers, the first reserve.
Article by Lauren Hopkins